Encouraging Self-Directed Learning #ELTchat Summary 22/03/2017

A PLN for ELT Professionals

Encouraging Self-Directed Learning #ELTchat Summary 22/03/2017

This summary was contributed by Rachel Appleby and was taken from her blog here 









@fwalkerbcn@fionaljp @rapple18 @EdTechTV@GlenysHanson @Nafooh1988@TESOLacademic@faleh_muhammad @Marisa_C  [@SueAnnan in the background; missed, thanks to technology …  @angelos_bollas ]

[Image from www.thegazelle.org/issue/63/opinion/ling-2] 



This week’s topic was an area proposed by @ElleninEdmonton and @Nafooh1988




Preamble …


Marisa_C pre-empted and attempted to prevent overlap and repetition with a heads-up on

three past chats on the topic (although I’m not sure we succeeded!), posted here


  1. Tips for delegating responsibilities to students – training them for autonomy Transcript (Summary not available)
  1. Learner Autonomy: Is it important? If is it, why is it and how can we promote it (should we?)  Summary 6 February 2013      Two definitions from this post were useful: NikkiFortova  “The way I understand it is the learner’s ability to take responsibility for their learning inside and outside the class”, and elawasell  “Learner Autonomy – being able to study on your own, have a say about the direction of learning, responsibility for own learning”. It was later agreed that age and culture were important implications.
    More in the Summary by Bob Knowles @BobK99
  1. Ways to develop learner autonomy: tips for learning outside class time, Summary: http://eltchat.org/wordpress/summary/ways-to-develop-learner-autonomy-tips-for-learning-outside-class-time-eltchat-summary-26012011/ 26 January 2011  

    Useful starting points from this summary [edited]:

    Main goals:

• Make your students independent of the teacher

• Help the learner to become his/her own mentor
• provide students with learning tools
How autonomy starts in classroom:
• Give them choice
• Show them ways of learning
• Use their interesta
• Talk about it in classroom

More in this Summary by Vladimira Michalkova


Marisa_C also mentioned up-front recent trends and echoes of this topic in Sugata Mitra’s IATEFL 2014 talk.


Here is the summary of a chat on SOLE, and a discussion after Dr Mitra’s presentation:


The Future of Learning – Reflections on Sugata Mitra’s Plenary at IATEFL



I’m not sure we all had time to read the above summaries, but the evening’s tweet-exchange on Encouraging Self-Directed Learning can be summarised and defined under two key areas: issues to be aware of, and ideas to promote Self-directed Learning.




Issues re. Self-directed learning


  • do they want it? (fionaljp); are they motivated?
  • the relationship between motivation and autonomy (Nafooh1988)
  • do sts value the importance of autonomous learning? (rapple18) – yes.. when they perceive learner autonomy as relate to their life outside the class (Nafooh1988)
  • ways of training learners to do what happens naturally out there on the web (Marisa_C)
  • if they are learning outside the classroom, what are they [we?] doing with the data, and who can we make sense of it (Marisa_C)
  • it’s a gradual process: increasing awareness, changing attitudes, changing roles (Scharle & Szabo http://www.cambridge.org/us/cambridgeenglish/catalog/teacher-training-development-and-research/learner-autonomy/learner-autonomy-a-guide-developing-learner-responsibility-paperback) (Nafooh1988)
  • … and never ends (TESOLacademic)
  • Ts need to create the right environment (fionaljp)
  • sts must be aware of own strengths and be able to make the right choices, hence learner training (Marisa_C)
  • metacognitive awareness: Qs become deeper – e.g. how do I learn best? (Marisa_C)



Ideas to encourage and promote Self-directed learning




begin early, – i.e. get them used to the idea

involving learners in making decisions about their learning


– weaning them off being spoonfed

– the less I chose & explained subjects the more students did


– Guide them, show them where they can find suitably challenging self-directed learning material

– collaboration and sharing ideas is key to encourage and maintain autonomy

– give [sts] the tools, encouragement but at some point it’s a choice

– get students to write summaries of texts they have chosen [see summary writing ling below]; then share


– a new approach to teaching – called “keep it Mysterious and they will WANT to learn it”
– creating a social network of sorts that they will WANT to belong
– getting them to do stuff in English which they’d otherwise do in L1 – [e.g. online / social media if studying in their own country, or having to go to the corner shop if studying in an English-speaking environment / ESOL]
– Vocab challenge can begin with sets of Quizlet cardsready made; later Ss make their own

– Reading challenge – can begin from a list, but later Ss choose own texts

– (via @ShellTerrell) different colour cards for T to monitor degree of autonomy – great for YLs


– autonomy + edtech is more about language use on social media then apps to practice
– huge potential of gamification (not to be confused with Game-base learning EdTechTV)

– asking ss for evidence of autonomous learning, e.g. a learner diary is one way of encouraging ss


– not only about materials, but now we approach them.
– a case of providing a model and a gradual process for sts to take over

– handling data: Facebook post by @nicolaMeldrum looking for platform for collecting data from students’ self-study: suggestions include GoogleForms, and Slack https://slack.com


A few extra links were included by Marisa_C and fionaljp:





On reflection, I’m not sure we took the topic much further on from previous #ELTchats, except that there were different participants, plus there’s never any harm in being reminded of these issues. I think what I might find useful another time would be to focus on specific areas of independent learning and autonomous tasks, e.g.


a) the WHAT, e.g.


  • student materials (e.g. workbook, ‘supplementary’ materials); especially prepared / set-up stuff (designed/prepared/suggested by the teacher .. or later by students – e.g. Quizlet); miscellaneous stuff – e.g. films, articles, etc. (‘authentic’ materials, suggested by T/St); real-life stuff (e.g. buying bread at the supermarket, going to a film, reading a newspaper/magazine/brochure – in an L2 [probably] environment; online social media in English (use of Facebook, Twitter, blogs. etc); etc.

b) the HOW, i.e.


  • student- or teacher-led; competition/challenge/gamification elements; etc.


c) KEEPING RECORDS, comparing and sharing with other students, etc.


  • When / Where / For how long (activity length) / Outcomes (benefits-pitfalls) / Follow-up suggestions


Perhaps a future #ELTchat could drop in to focus on some of this (but by no means all!) – the more focused the topic, the deeper we can go, and perhaps this would be useful!

Thanks to all for joining in last Wednesday – it was great to be part of the group! (It was another reminder that I don’t do #ELTchat often enough!)


… and don’t forget to read the latest from #ELTchat: http://eltchat.org/wordpress/latest


[Excuse the mix of links and hyperlinks.. having tech problems!)


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